They say you can know a man by the company he keeps. Apparently, you can also know a band by it.
The Philadelphia-based, indie-pop group Buried Beds opened for mewithoutYou on the latter’s 2012 tour in support of Ten Stories. They must’ve been in good company. The fit was apparently so good that when mewithoutYou sought a new rhythm guitarist, Buried Beds’ Brendan Beaver (say that five times fast) filled the gap seamlessly. The bands are kindred spirits.
Both groups display a kind of spiritual whimsy, drawing lyrical inspiration from myth and folklore and channeling it into diverse instrumentations as inventive as they are infectious. In Spirit, the sophomore release from Buried Beds, is a big step forward. Their debut LP Tremble The Sails was staggeringly diverse, but a little uneven in places. In Spirit sounds that much more sure of itself across the record’s 10 tracks. In fact, it’s almost too even.
What impresses most about Buried Beds is how their arrangements metamorphosize throughout a song. Tracks that begin with a vacant guitar riff can swell into manic fuzz-folk, while lilting, plucky, string-and-piano numbers will soar into chamber-pop anthems. The band’s love for quirky percussion and the occasional synth overture keeps listeners on their toes. Each part is so expertly played and thoughtfully arranged that it feels remarkably unified and whole. It’s sonic impressionism.
Case in point: “Wolf Confessor” transforms from a bouncy, fairground organ-based dirge into a straightforward indie rock power anthem—all inside its four and a half minute run time.
Beaver co-fronts the band with the toothy-grinned Eliza Jones, who lends her breathy, delicate vocals to most tracks. Something about her airy soprano in harmony with Beaver’s throaty tenor ends up sounding like an amazing, androgynous, synthetic robot choir—though the gobs of reverb may have something to do with that.
Lyrics are similarly diverse, sometimes mystical and sincere, as on “Stars”: “And sleep won’t come if you never close your eyes / Like stars above us we are all on fire.” Other times they are caustic and contemporary, like on “1000 Acres”, which contains lines such as “With every little word I’ll say it / Every little turn, I’ll take it now / And every little word, you’ll say it never really mattered at all.”
With all its diversity of lyric and style, it’s a bit of a shame the pace of the album is on a pretty constant keel, however. The songs are almost all just over four minutes in length, and none of them ever totally commit to driving rock or power pop, which might’ve given the listener something to latch onto. “Breadcrumb Trail”, from Tremble the Sails, was two minutes and 39 seconds of perfect pop, all smiles, unicorns and gumdrops, and remains the best song Buried Beds have ever written. Meanwhile, “Your Modern Age”, their debut’s heaviest track, is more than five minutes of guitar and piano cacophony that comes off not as indulgent but urgent. That sort of urgency is a bit harder to find on In Spirit.
Instead, In Spirit is a mature, measured approach to indie rock, not constructed but crafted with incredible artistry and musicianship. There’s a reason Buried Beds have been invited to share the stage with some of the most original acts from the Philadelphia music scene, including mewithoutYou and Dr. Dog. Buried Beds make the most of a broad sonic palette, but never overwhelm you with it. Don’t miss this album.